I am 17 years old, 5'9", 126 lbs. 2 years ago I was very overweight (215 lbs), and decided to lose weight by doing cardio and following a vegetarian (ahem...starvation) diet. I was taking in around 1400-1600 calories for months, and probably got to my current weight range in about 8 months.
Since then, I've reintroduced meat and follow a mostly minimally-processed diet with some treats thrown in (jello pudding mix stirred into greek yogurt, gluten-free cereal grains, etc.). I run about 30 miles a week and eat 3000 calories a day.
Here's the problem: I'm always depressed, I have intense IBS and bloating, my energy is inconsistent, and blood tests show cripplingly low testosterone levels (which are reflected in my utter lack of libido, which was ridiculously high when I was overweight).
The worst part: I'm constantly hungry. Food is on my mind 99% of the time, and if I let myself I can eat forever; in fact, for a while I went through months of a nasty binge-restrict cycle which is only just starting to correct itself. I IF (12 hour daily fasts between breakfast and dinner), just because I can't bear to eat less than 1200 calories in a sitting, regardless of volume. Food has become such a source of stress and pain in my life, despite my enjoying it.
I also particularly crave SAD foods; for the past 1.5 years I have not passed a vending machine, fast food chain or pastry shop without turning to glance and desperately wishing I could eat whatever morsel was theoretically available.
FYI, I'm with a psychologist at the moment, so don't just tell me to 'get help.' What can I do to make my life easier? I don't want to have to constantly battle myself.
The running isn't forced; I love the rush of running. But if I had a choice, I'd be eating thousands of calories of twinkies every day. :(
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5'9" and 126 pounds, down 90 pounds.
This has nothing to do with paleo. You dieted too long. You are extremely skinny.
Signs of dieting too long
- Crashed testosterone/no libido
- Cold all the time (low thyroid)
- Food constantly on your mind (NPY)
- Craving high calorie food (which I think you are misattributing to craving SAD.)
I'm going to be blunt, you probably have an eating disorder.
The most important thing you can do is Eat 1. ~130g protein/day 2. Sufficient calories to begin slowly gaining weight 3. Slowly let go of some of your orthorexic tendencies.
I highly doubt you are eating 3000 calories considering the other signs of disordered eating and your bodyweight, and the fact you are showing symptoms of extreme caloric restriction. If you are eating 3000kcal you should be putting on weight at a noticeable level.
Stop IF. People with eating disorders (read: binge eaters) often do very bad with IF because it increases tendency to binge. I know personally that I could eat 5000+ kcal in one sitting when IF, but now that I've stopped I can control myself and eat 500-600 kcal. It will take some time to adjust.
Tl;dr You overdieted. Develop good basic eating habits, put on some weight slowly. You will have to accept some fat gain for this to happen. Cut back on the exercise, you need to recover.
Good job for talking to a psychologist, and best of luck. I unfortunately know a lot of people who have been in the same boat as you.
It could be some digestion issue, but my gut (har har har) tells me it's not.
You need a highly nutrient dense diet to compensate for your vegetarian misadventure. You're going to want to be eating mostly red meat, organs and egg yolks (at least 4 a day - not the whites since you already have digestive issues). The odds of you being deficient in zinc (which is very likely the cause of your hypogonadism) is really high. Supplementing with zinc without displacing copper is tricky, so just stick with the meat and organs. Eat them in the absence of phytic acid (basically any starch or nuts), which inhibits their absorption. You can eat starchy foods at different times if you want.
Additionally, you need to make sure you're supplementing with vitamin D3, K2 (though good eggs and liver has k2, but a little extra won't hurt) and magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is linked with depression.
Skip the running and do a lot of walking instead.
It's worth a try to go down this route before experimenting with pharmaceuticals.
I agree with Nance. You are going to have to start focusing mainly on quality rather than quantity. Nance's BIG breakfast suggestion is great, but I'd add on some seaweed and a slice or two of liver. That will blunt your appetite substantially and provide very important appetites. You probably won't like it, at first at least. I used to have to choke it down with water, but now I kind of enjoy it.
I would also look into higher quality treats. Jello pudding mix is just going to feed into your addictions. You are trying to re-train your tastebuds and any amount of processed engineered foods is going to mess it up. Try very high-quality dark chocolate instead. If you have a Whole Foods near you, I'd check out the Hail Merry pies, which make a very lovely treat once in awhile.
Another thing is to try new whole foods and flavors a lot, which will satisfy your brain's desire for novelty. My own hack was that I started to really enjoy very spicy food and I've never overeaten it.
But you have the issue where you have appetite dysfunction and LOW weight, which means you are going to have to make sure you get enough calories. I would use cron o meter.
Edit: also you should see a professional in this area.
First, YES, you are hurting yourself. Sounds like you recognize you are exhibiting some signs of disordered eating and are underweight (I'm not sure what a 17 year old guy should be but 125 sounds pretty low). I have struggled with eating disorders and IBS for 18 years. The two often go hand in hand - starvation ravages your gut flora and messes with every aspect of digestion. I now have osteoperosis and a host of other problems. Don't be me.
I know you are seeing a therapist - are they suggesting that you seek inpatient or outpatient treatment at an eating disorder clinic? This is a serious, often fatal mental illness that cannot be cured by diet alone.
But in terms of diet, it would be great if you could see a nutritionist or dietician (maybe someone through your school?) who could outline a meal plan for you to follow that would ensure weight restoration. And then once you reach goal weight, they can tailor it back to a maintenance meal plan. In my experience it was very hard mentally to eat enough to gain weight. Especially given your history of obesity, I'm sure you're probably terrified of going back there. Complying to a meal plan and being accountable to report it to your nutritionist can be a real help. Interestingly, being on a meal plan while in treatment last year was the first time I'd eaten dairy, wheat etc in many years. I was bloated the whole time, but otherwise my IBS was better than it was before. Getting a lot of food in your system every few hours is key to getting the pipes running again (I know IF is big around here but IMHO it's not the best approach for either IBS or eating disorders).
And, bonus: You will find that once you are feeding yourself enough, your brain will not think and dream about food every minute of the day and night. It is extremely liberating to experience this. Your mood, libido, concentration and energy will also soar.
Since you posted on here, I assume you are eating Paleo. The tough thing is, in the eating-disorder treatment world, any diet that cuts out food groups is generally seen as problematic for a number of reasons (one being the potential sense of deprivation/obsession with "prohibited" foods that you yourself are experiencing). My decision to go Paleo to help my IBS is still a hugely worrisome thing in the eyes of my treatment team. So I may catch some major flack for this, but it may be in your best interest to shelve Paleo for now, and just focus on meal plan of whole foods but also incorporates ALL foods. I'm not sure that I'm right here - this is a really tricky area - but orthorexia is a REAL issue, and a Paleo-type diet may exacerbate that obsession-with-health in those who are susceptible to eating disorders.
It would also be ideal for you to see your GP, set a reasonable weight goal, and get your GP talking to your therapist and your nutritionist so everyone's on the same page. Your GP should be monitoring your weight with blind weigh-ins on a regular basis.
It's great that you're seeing a therapist and that you recognize this is no way to live. Hugner is hell. And seriously, you want to nip an eating disorder in the bud as early as you can. I wish I had gotten real treatment at your age, instead of everyone assuming I would just "grow out of it".
Here is a good resource for the US. http://www.something-fishy.org/
Hope something in this long ramble was of use.
I suspect you're not eating enough whole, nutritious food because you're trying so hard to fight your hunger for junk (you're not alone in that!) My grandson was doing the same thing a few weeks ago and I told him not to be afraid of real food, it's your friend not your enemy.
1) Start your day with a breakfast of meat--fatty meat. Include eggs if you like them. By fatty meat, I mean things like bacon, beef without all the fat trimmed off, chicken with the skin still on, etc. Eat whole eggs or just yolks, not just whites.
2) See what happens to your desire for junk in the following hours; if your urge to eat junk is less, wait until you feel hungry and eat another meal--maybe fatty meat and vegetables.
Repeat steps 1) and 2).
Thanks for the many responses and words of support, guys. I do 3 20-minute weight lifting sessions a week, but to be honest I'm not sure my heart's completely in it; my progress has stalled, and I'm aware that I'd probably need to gain weight to get it moving again.
It's true, I'm generally uncomfortable with the idea of weight gain; chronic dieter's mentality.
As far as my diet goes, I'm honestly a little surprised that I'm able to maintain on 3000 calories, given that I only run 30 miles a week and live an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. Still, given my hunger and gut pains, maybe I'm having absorption issues...? I should also note that I eat a very high protein diet, as it keeps me satiated. Here's a sample day:
-2 cups nonfat greek yogurt -can of refried beans -entire carton of egg whites -1/2 tbsp butter -400g deli ham -large banana -2 scoops muscle milk protein powder -8 oz russet potato -12 oz sweet potato -1/3 cup coconut milk -5 oz pork tenderloin
~3000 calories, ~320g protein, ~305g carb, ~55g fat
Carbs fluctuate between 200-300, fats usually between 50-90. I usually pig out on cruciferous vegetables 2 or 3 times a week, and try to stay away from processed deli meat but often can't help myself (my salt consumption is really high). Also, dairy is a really big part of my diet.
Yeah, I know I'm probably too anal and focused on hitting macros. Old habits die hard.
Just got some blood test results back; turns out I'm anemic. The doctor is also extremely skeptical of my claims of 3000 calories a day; I suggested malabsorption, but my otherwise normal results suggest that this isn't the case.
He strongly recommends gaining weight; wants me to be 145 in 3 months. According to him, anemia definitely isn't something to mess around with; it's life-or-death stuff. Ack.
Problem is that he's sending me to a standard nutritionist, and believes that one of the reasons I'm anemic is that I'm not eating "normally." He says that he'd rather see me stuff twinkies in my face then continue my current patterns. Hmm.
I have been in the exact same situation - big weight loss over a short amount of time, through calorie restriction/vegetarianism/exercise etc - experienced hormonal imbalances because of drastic weight loss (depression/anxiety/hair loss/loss of periods/loss of libido etc etc) and then had trouble reaching satiety once i lost the weight - never had the 'full switch' turn on after a meal. I have found the path back to health and hormonal balance through a very simple regime:
Reset my leptin sensitivity: After losing a lot of weight, restricting calories, being underweight for a time, and having hormonal imbalances (which anyone has after going through an unhealthy drastic weightloss regime as we have) I found that i had to reset my leptin sensitivity in order to gain satiety from 3 meals a day and stop craving food in between causing me to either overeat, or just be miserable wanting food (even though i was eating enough and healthy food through paleo). I found the leptin reset through Dr Kruse, and it has definitely worked for me in the satiety department. Overweight people who also have leptin sensitivity issues use this method to regain their sensitivity also, but with the aim to be able to lose weight after correcting their sensitivity to their leptin signals, whereas us already at our desired weights just want to regain our sensitivity in order to be happy and satisfied on our food intake, without the risk of putting on weight. Now following his reset, I eat 3 meals a day and do not have a single thought about food inbetween (this is incredible for me). yes, i get hungry for lunch and dinner, but a normal hunger which i can then relieve at a normal time, rather than a constant niggling in my brain for food, sometimes even an hour after eating a proper meal. this has helped my wellbeing beyond description. Read more here - http://jackkruse.com/how-does-the-leptin-rx-work/ and http://jackkruse.com/the-leptin-rx-faqs/
The rules i followed *for me were:
- Eating a large amount of protein (40-50g) and fat (50g-60g) in the morning to ensure I stay satiated throughout the day (eating within 45 min of waking)
- Eat the remainder of my protein and fat, with my carb allowance at lunch and dinner.
- Meals to be 5 hours apart from each other
- No snacking in between
- Dinner to be at 7:30pm at the latest - nothing afterwards (not that i am hungry for anything after dinner now)
- Daily macro's: 65% fat / 15% protein / 20% carb
Sleep: I cannot stress enough how much sleep has been important to my recovery. in bed by 10:30 for 8/9 hours of sleep. I do not need an alarm clock any more (i find this so bizzare!!) as i wake up every morning at the strike of 7am naturally and am always refreshed. this has never ever been the case for me my whole life, but after reading up on hormones and how sleep effects your hormonal release/rhythm and weight control, i can see how fundamental it is to health and happiness.
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As for exercise, apart from general walking and 2 yoga classes a week, I have gone from intensive gym and running in order to maintain (not lose) my weight, to practically nothing more than light exercise to effortlessly maintain my weight and body comp (128 lbs, 5 ft 8). This is a miracle for me and although i loved running, am secretly happy its not a necessity any more, and can be more of a once in a while thing.
fyi - i tried IF, mainly in the morning, but didnt find this healthy in regaining hormonal balance. I think if you have hormonal issues, which you definitely have, you should leave IFing until they are stable again. Also, i found i just ended up eating a heap more when i did allow myself to break the fast...it really just made me think about food even more, whereas the leptin reset has given me freedom from the constant focus on my hunger and portions etc.
My advise would be to give the leptin reset a go for 6-8 weeks and see how it works for you. I can guarantee it will solve your satiety problems, as it did mine. I now eat the correct macros for me, and they fill me - rather than before, eating the same amount, or more and never feeling satisfied.
this is just a quick rundown of what works for me - if you'd like to chat more in depth, i'd happily email. let me know.
Like others, I've been in your exact situation! Overweight teen, vegetarian diet, running, then subsequent health problems. I had the low energy, low libido, coldness, bruising, and hair loss. Same with food obsession (that I thought would never go away) and bingeing. Here's what I did and suggest:
First thing I suggest is to STOP WITH ALL FOOD SITES. Thinking of food all the time is not healthy. My bookmarks list used to be hundred of recipes, food blogs, and forums like chowhound. I was obsessed, and the internet fed my obsession. Perhaps paleohacks would be good to check out every few days, but I would work on changing your thought patterns before anything. This is most important. You have to get yourself out of the habit of planning and considering food all day, which requires cognitive changes (such getting rid of environmental cues for eating or thinking of food) and real effort.
Second is to let yourself eat as you want, ignoring macronutrient ratios except for getting adequate or above levels of protein. If you have low energy (like I did) and coldness, you're probably exhausted and have slowed your metabolism. You may also have adrenal issues. It'd be best to take an exercise break and eat until you're full and satisfied.
Then, when energy returns (after 10 days or so of rest) try just weight lifting and eating to gain muscle. I actually ate whatever I wanted and put on more muscle than fat thanks to newbie gains. The "eating to gain" thing shifted my mindset away from coveting foods and feeling deprived, and the lack of blowing up made me fear overeating less. Plus no guilt.
What really helped me conquer food obsessions was to fast once in a while. I became a compulsive eater, and fasting taught me that I run fine without food all the time, what real hunger feels like, how surprisingly easy it is not to eat, and how to shift my focus away from what I'm eating that day to what I'm doing. It helped to free me and teach me to eat less and be more thoughtful of when and where I eat. It also helped me see food as fuel, when I realized my day was just as fun or sucky whether I had a "fun" meal/treat or not. I learned not to make food my entertainment.
Sorry, meant to make that short and sweet!
I agree with the posts that advise stopping the IF. To me, it sounds like you are not eating enough densely caloric foods and denying yourself for 12 hours does not help the situation, which leads to agreessive binge eating. I don't think quality needs to be sacrificed for quantity. Eat good, whole food, but eat as much of it as you want. Drop the pudding, but keep the full-fat dairy if it agrees with you.
I also agree with Nance, Melissa and others that you should start the day with a big, meaty breakfast and go from there.
I disagree with those who say to cut back on the running. You are young and if you enjoy running, I say to go get it. I knew plenty of cross country runners back when I was in high school and they put in way more than 30 miles a week and probably didn't weigh much more than you do. I do agree that you should find some activities to do with others. This will help with the depression.
Keep up with the counseling, and remember that you are young, which means you are more resiliant than some of us. A few small changes will mean a world of difference for you.
A typical prolem with diets - trying to restrict calories during the day when you need the energy. try pulling your 3 main meals back a few hrs earlier and and do your exercise two hrs after dinner - you will burn fat while you sleep when you dont need to be on top of your game and still eat well during the day. This comes from the new diet programme called the sleep ti off weightloss system and is practically paleo but with key eating/exercising formula similar to what i have described. I have posted before about testosterone and suma root also sacha inchi protien powder while dieting and exercising - is has high levels of the feel good amino acid tryptophan - something your binges have probably depleted you of in addition to other things. Dont forget with such a big weight loss you tend to liberate a lot of stored toxins when you burn old fat stores - so its a good idea to protect yourself with a strong natural superberry drink with a high orac and or something like cacao nibs also very high antioxidants and feel good stuff. rapid weight loss can leave you depleted and exposed at a cellular level it's an imortant time to flood your system with supernutrients (the ones that dont put on weight)
As a chronic depressive (my first memories are of periods of serious, abrupt melancholy) I'm honestly not sure there is a fix-all for depression, and at midlife I'm increasingly convinced that trying to make it 'go away' is not the right approach for me. I've never gone for a prescription but have self-medicated with 5HTP and amino acid supplements off and on with very slight results. Vitamin D drops do seem to be helping (I always hit them hard at the onset of winter/daylight savings) and permanently moving to a more evolutionary/Paleo way of eating has eased the intensity and frequency of depressive episodes.
Ongoing weight loss, though I was never overweight, also improves my outlook and my sense of control over my life, but I'm well aware this is a 'broken' approach to mood improvement. It's just one I am not willing to give up right now.
Matt -- first of all, great job with the weight loss. Don't underestimate that you are the one who accomplished that, and that it's not easy -- you identified a change that you wanted to make, and you put a program in place to do it. Good work!
Now it sounds like you just need to tweak your lifestyle changes a little. If you like running, keep doing it -- but you could afford to do less. Still, 30 miles a weeks isn't that much (meaning it's not "bad" for you). But -- it takes time -- that you could devote to changing it up a little. If all you do is run (or play hockey, or lift, or aerobics -- doesn't matter), your body will adapt to running and you'll stop seeing gains from it.
Something to keep in mind -- the body works on hormones, not calories. You mention low testo. levels -- testo. is a hormone, and hormones need fat. You want to find a balance that works for you, but in general you should be eating in a ratio of about 40-40-20 (fat, carbs, protein). If you are getting enough nutrition from the right food sources, you won't experience the cravings you keep battling, and life will be better.
Also, if you begin incorporating some strength training -- under the guidance of a trainer who knows what they're doing -- you'll put on some muscle mass, and feel stronger. Lifting heavy things stimulates testosterone production. Something to check out would be a CrossFit gym near you. CF would automatically introduce strength training into your life, in addition to your running. Trust me, if anything, it will help your running!I've yet to experience any fitness regimen as effective or satisfying -- started it in January, and still think it's the best thing I've ever done for myself. (For ref, I'm 49 now, and when I started, I weighed more than you did before you dropped your weight -- and I'm 5'6"! Don't be intimidated by the "bad ass" reputation that CF tends to have -- find the right gym, with the right trainers, and you'll be amazed. And a little bad-ass. ;) )
Sounds like your diet is close, as you mention avoiding gluten -- make sure you avoid all of it (breads, cakes, pasta). And Melissa's right -- ditch the Jello! Even if it's sugar-free, it's not helping you. The taste keeps you jonesing for sweets, and the body still responds to artificial sugar in the same way it responds to sugar (sugar consumed, insulin spike in blood, body shifts into fat storing mode, continued spikes will lead to insulin insensitivity, which is a precondition for Type 2 diabetes).
Google "Paleo diet" and see what happens! Here are a few other good sites:
Good luck, Matt -- and let us know how you progress!